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Here's everything you need to know about the “new” STD

by , 24 November 2015

As if there wasn't enough bad news on STDs to worry about already, a recent study suggests there's a new sexually transmitted infection in town. Introducing: mycoplasma genitalium, or MG for short.

Though experts have known of MG's existence since the '80s, the new paper published in the International Journal of Epidemiology reveals that the bacterial infection, which resides in the urinary and genital tracts, likely spreads through sexual contact.

To reach their findings, researchers at University College London, examined urine samples of 4,507 men and women between 18 and 44 years old who were sexually active with at least one partner. Of these participants, 48 women and 24 men were diagnosed with MG. However, when the researchers tested urine samples from about 200 teenagers who had never had sex, zero tested positive for the infection.

Here are all the facts you need to know on this “new” STD.

What you need to know about mycoplasma genitalium – the new STD

“What are the symptoms?”
Just like many other STDs, MG is often asymptomatic. In fact, the University College London study found that 94.4% of men and 56.2% of women with MG didn’t report any symptoms.
 
However there are some tip-offs. For women, this includes irritation, painful urination, and bleeding after sex. For men, the most common signs are painful urination or a watery discharge.
 
MG has been linked to both inflammation in the cervix (cervicitis) and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is a serious condition often caused by other STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhoea. About 10% of women who develop PID (which causes abdominal pain, fever, painful cervix, and pain or bleeding during sex) can blame MG as the underlying cause.
 
“Can I get tested?”
Yes, you can definitely ask your doctor to test you, especially if the symptoms sound familiar. But part of the reason experts are just now finding out MG is sexually transmitted is that it’s not quite as easy as getting tested for say, chlamydia or another STD.

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Why? Far fewer labs offer the test, which means your doctor will have to send it to the nearest research centre or big university lab that offers it, which can delay your results significantly depending on where you live.
 
The good news: In light of the new findings, doctors are confident that more labs will jump at the opportunity to add these tests to their repertoire.
 
“Is it treatable?”
Thankfully, yes. The antibiotic azithromycin (the same “Z-pack” you take when you get strep throat) is effective against MG.
 
“How can I prevent it?”
“Condoms, condoms, condoms,” researchers say. “The bottom line is it’s a bacteria, and condoms are very effective against bacteria.”
 

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